Michael Jordan’s claims surrounding the Dream Team have been called into question after a resurfaced audio recording of the basketball legend contradicted what he said in ESPN’s documentary, The Last Dance.
The USA basketball team for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona included 11 future Hall of Famers, however, one notable absentee included two-time NBA champion, Isiah Thomas.
Thomas and the Detroit Pistons had an intense rivalry with the Chicago Bulls throughout the first half of Jordan’s career. The rivalry peaked in 1991 when the defending champions unceremoniously walked off the court after the Bulls relinquished them of their title in the Eastern Conference finals.
The following summer, Thomas was omitted from the Dream Team, a decision made all the more surprising considering his Pistons head coach Chuck Daly was taking charge of the USA team.
For years, Jordan had been implicated as a key reason behind Thomas’ absence, however, during the recent 10-part documentary series he denied asking for his rival to be omitted.
“I respect Isiah Thomas’ talent. To me, the best point guard of all time is Magic Johnson and right behind him is Isiah Thomas,” said Jordan.
“No matter how much I hate him, I respect his game. Now, it was insinuated that I was asking [for Thomas to be left off the team] but I never threw his name in there.”
However, Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum played an audio recording of Jordan from 2011 on his podcast, The Dream Team Tapes, which refutes these claims.
McCallum wrote a book entitled The Dream Team, where he claimed that Jordan’s opposition to Thomas was vital to him not being selected in 1992. The author went further on the show claiming “Michael Jordan did not want him [Isiah Thomas].”
McCallum proceeds to play the recording of Jordan where he admits to giving selection committee member Rod Thorn an ultimatum before claiming that Chuck Daly didn’t want Thomas on the team.
“Rod Thorn called me. I said, ‘Rod, I won’t play if Isiah Thomas is on the team,’” Jordan says in the 2011 interview.
“He assured me. He said, ‘You know what? Chuck Daly doesn’t want Isiah. So, Isiah is not going to be part of the team.’”
Yes, it's got the Jordan-Isiah story. On tape. But Episode 3 of "The Dream Team Tapes" has a lot more, too. A lot about why Chuck Daly was chosen as coach of the team, and why Christian Laettner got the nod over Shaquille O'Neal for the one college slot. https://t.co/XymfbQuWGQ
— Jack McCallum (@McCallum12) May 26, 2020
McCallum is the latest to criticise the acclaimed documentary which was created in collaboration with Jordan’s production company with Scottie Pippen reportedly ‘livid’ following his portrayal while former Bulls teammate Horace Grant was publicly critical of the series and Jordan’s role in it.
“When that so-called documentary is about one person, basically, and he has the last word on what’s going to be put out there … it’s not a documentary,” Grant said. “It’s his narrative of what happens in the last, quote-unquote dance. That’s not a documentary because a whole bunch of things was cut out, edited out. So that’s why I call it a so-called documentary.”